It's a rotten shame that Westchester Country Club, the host of this week's Buick Classic, might drop the tournament after next year. The club's extraordinary West course is one of the Tour's rare enjoyable tracks, and the Classic, which I won in 1969, is one of the few events that the guys really look forward to attending.
When Westchester debuted, in 1967, players were attracted to it because its $250,000 purse was the Tour's largest, but we fell in love with the course too. A leading requirement of old-time golf architects was to build fun layouts, and Walter Travis did that in spades at Westchester. The West, though only 6,722 yards, didn't beat the hell out of us but was formidable in subtle ways. On the 7th hole, a 326-yard par-4 that doglegs left, you could cut the corner by driving over the trees, but that was also a quick way to a 5 or a 6. I always laid up off the tee. The 314-yard 10th is another classic temptation. Try to drive the green and you might make eagle, but a wayward tee shot could easily lead to big trouble.
Players also liked Westchester because it was the first event that let us explore New York City. My Tour friends and I had heard horror stories of the city. Supposedly, New Yorkers were jerks and crime was everywhere. We learned that wasn't the case. New Yorkers treated us with kindness and respect. After playing, we'd ride the train into the city to attend the theater, have dinner at 21 or see a Yankees game. I looked forward to Westchester, to luxuriating in the wooden-floored locker room and thinking my way around the course. But I understand why the club wants out. Tour events used to be about golf. Today they're about money. Clubs like Westchester weren't built to accommodate corporate villages, massive parking lots and huge grandstands. Who needs the hassle?